Phil Foglio is best known, along with his wife Kaja, for their successful web comic series Girl Genius. Phil is also the creator and artist responsible for Buck Godot. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.— ed, N.E. Lilly
Interview with Phil Foglio
by N.E. Lilly
Phil is a cartoonist and comic book artist best known for his humorous science fiction and fantasy work that has appeared in many places, including Magic: The Gathering cards, DC Comics, Duelist, and Dragon Magazine. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist in 1977 and 1978, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2008. He and his wife, Kaja Foglio, won the first graphic story Hugo for Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones.
For more information about Phil and Kaja visit Airship entertainment at studiofoglio.com, or visit any one of their three comics, now running online: What’s New with Phil & Dixie, Girl Genius, and Buck Godot.
How did you get involved in Cartooning?
I loved cartoons as a kid. Liked to read them, liked to watch them, liked to draw them. Then I found out that there were people who got PAID to do cartoons. My fate was sealed.
How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
Again, I was an avid reader. I read everything my school libraries had, and eventually found organized science-fiction fandom, who liked my cartoons. Double bonus to them.
What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I can’t rightly say. There are so many stories that fall into that category, it’s hard to remember which one was “first.”
How do you define “Space Western”?
In my opinion, a ‘western’ is story where, ideally, one person faces down the antagonist by himself. He or she (though more traditionally ‘He’, so I’ll stick to that pronoun) may have friends, or sidekicks, but all the important action is performed by him. Whereas he can occasional work within the system, usually circumstances dictate that he has to go outside said system, and use “other methods,” which usually consist of firearms.
What can you tell me about the Universe in which Buck Godot lives?
I give a lot of the background in the books, in the text pieces known as The Herodotus Complex. It’s around 1000 years in the future. Civilization has collapsed and been rebuilt. There are whole lotta aliens out there. Some are smarter than us, some are stupider, and some are just too alien to care about.
Where did the inspiration come from for Buck Godot?
Back in the early 80’s I found a goofball comic about psychotically reprehensible rabbits in space. I thought, “I can do that.” So I decided to write a goofy science fiction story that would have a gunfight or an explosion on every page. That was the first Buck Godot story.
Where did you get the name “Buck Godot”?
Buck came from a friend named John Buckley, who was an inspiration for the character. I just thought the ‘Godot’ part sounded neat.
It seems that the majority of your work is in fantasy and RPGs, why delve into Science Fiction?
It makes a nice change. It’s a different mental discipline.
Buck Godot stories contain a number of analogs to Western stories (Saloon brawls, gun-fights, Hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, the lawless frontier, hired guns, etc.), were these intentional nods to Westerns?
No. If anything, my head was more in the hard-boiled detective genre. It has a lot in common with the western genre. I think they were both products of a unique American writing style.
What can you tell me about that alien fetish known as “The Winslow” which features so prominently in the Buck Godot storyline?
The Winslow is a small stuffed alligator that I found in a dumpster behind my apartment in Chicago. I named it after Winslow Leach, the lead character in the movie Phantom of the Paradise. I’ve tried to put Winslow in everything I’ve ever done, in one form or another.
After Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire and Buck Godot: PSmith you got involved with the 1987 and 1989 Star Blazers comics. How did that happen?
My good pal Doug Rice, with whom I worked on Dynamo Joe for First Comics, got involved with that. They needed a writer, and Doug called me.
Why did you decide to make the Buck Godot comics available online in 2007?
In 2005 we took our current comic, Girl Genius, online, and it was a huge success, increasing our readership by a factor of 15. Many of these new readers didn’t know about Buck, so we figured this was the perfect way to introduce him.
What’s in store for Buck Godot in the future?
Don’t know. I have a few notes toward more stories set in the Buck Godot universe, but we’ll see.
Any plans for a Buck Godot RPG?
Nope. That license is still available, kids.
What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
I think it’s one of the purer forms of that quintessential American writing form I mentioned earlier. Except instead of one man with a gun against the frontier, it’s one man with a gun against the universe.
Can you let me in on any exclusive information, unknown insights, or trade secrets?
‘Waterproof’ ink? Not really waterproof.
What else can we expect to see from you in the near future?
A lot more Girl Genius.